Stay in the 2021 Marketing Huddle

Here in the United States, we gather on February 7 for Super Bowl LV.

Bah, humbug.

If I haven’t upset you yet, keep reading.

I never use male sports metaphors to tell stories because I simply do not understand the rules–and have too many other hobbies to invest time to learn them.

For today, I’ll break my own rules by sharing an attention-grabbing story about one of my fellow 100 Coaches members, Curtis Martin.

Curtis, an NFL Hall of Famer and top running back, once reveled in the “work hard, play hard” lifestyle. He socialized into the wee hours, then dashed off to 6 am practice. He had already demonstrated his talent and was part of the starting team. One day, he wasn’t sure if he should play because he “hurt a little bit.”

Legendary New York Jets coach Bill Parcells replied: “you never want to come out of the huddle because you never know who’s going into the huddle.” It is a known fact that football scouts are always looking for fresh, less expensive talent to add to the team. Curtis faced a crossroads: he either had to stay “mostly committed” to the game, or fully committed.

You can always be replaced, especially when your commitment wanes.

As we enter the second half of this horrible pandemic, I see many business owners and marketing leaders facing a similar moment.

New rules of business are emerging—and sometimes we have no clue what they will be. Fate rewards the agile, the persistent, and the fully committed.

Here are areas where we need to commit:

  1. Manage your mindset. COVID, coupled with social and economic unrest, shook our very core and our confidence. It certainly happened to me. If you are still facing long periods of self-doubt, negative talk, or anxiety, seek help.

    Find people to remind you of your gifts and talents, and ask them to hold you accountable for your goals. Join a mastermind or accountability group. Schedule 30-minute weekly check-ins. Hire a therapist.

    Double down on self-care: journaling, meditation, exercise, healthy diet, and nature hikes. Every leader in my community, regardless of their financial status and years’ experience, has built a structure around this.

    Finally, ask your work peers to stop calling these “soft skills.” They are life skills.

  2. Double down on digital. Blogging, podcasting, and livestreaming are not designed for dilettantes. If you cannot keep your blog filled with fresh content, take it down. Upgrade your in-home studio now. Please stop using the beachy and mountain background videos that distract and distort. Videoconferencing is here to stay in some shape or form. Contact me for my list of favorite production equipment (which is also a work in progress).

  3. Get sales savvy. Marketing and sales are a process. Yet many marketers I know will isolate themselves from direct customer interaction or sales meetings. Sure, there are exceptions—when you are in the world of transactional selling (such as office supplies). Evaluate your marketing and sales model. At what stages of the game are you doing well? Where are your opportunities stalling? How many decision makers (not tire kickers) are you talking to every week? How many do you need to connect with every week to generate a healthy pipeline of opportunities? Some of my best CMO clients understand this and forge service level agreements with sales to share ownership of each stage. I’ve said this in many previous publications—the days of treating sales as a completely separate function are dissolving. If it has not already happened, your bonus will soon depend on proving your contributions.

  4. Go organic. There is nothing stronger than building your own email list. Google and Apple are changing their search engine rules in February, making it more difficult to rely on personalization, segmentation, SEO and website rankings to attract leads. Find ways to serve your followers directly.

  5. Carefully pick partners. Bad partnerships will suck your energy. Walk away from RFPs unless you helped the client and the partner write them. RFPs are typically managed by administrative or procurement people, not the economic buyer. I know a handful of marketing agencies who wait for RFPs to magically appear, or spend their time shipping pitch decks to prospects. Their revenues are down 25%-40% since COVID hit.

You always want to protect your health, your loved ones, and your financial future. At the same time, your commitment level to your business, your marketing, and your people will define the year—not the pandemic.

Will you stay in the huddle with us, or will you find another game worth playing?

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